Matthew 5:32
But I say to you, That whoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.
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(32) Saving for the cause of fornication.—The most generic term seems intentionally used to include ante-nuptial as well as post-nuptial sin, possibly, indeed, with reference to the former only, seeing that the strict letter of the Law of Moses made death the punishment of the latter, and so excluded the possibility of the adultery of a second marriage. The words causeth her to commit adultery imply that the “putting away” was legally a divorce à vinculo, leaving the wife, and à fortiori the husband, at liberty to marry again; for otherwise she could not have incurred the guilt of adultery by a second marriage: but it asserts that in such a case, when divorce was obtained on any other ground than the specific sin which violated the essence of the marriage contract, man’s law (even that of Moses) was at variance with the true eternal law of God.

Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced.—The Greek is less definite, and may be rendered either “a woman who has been put away,” or better, “her when she has been put away.” Those who take the former construction, infer from it the absolute unlawfulness of marriage with a divorced woman under any circumstances whatever; some holding that the husband is under the same restrictions, i.e., that the vinculum matrimonii is absolutely indissoluble; while others teach that in the excepted case, both the husband and the wife gain the right to contract a second marriage. The Romish Church, in theory, takes the former view, the Greek and most Reformed Churches the latter; while some codes, like those of some countries in modern Europe, go back to the looser interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1, and allow the divorce à vinculo for many lesser causes than incontinence. Of these contending views, that which is intermediate between the two extremes seems to be most in harmony with the true meaning of our Lord’s words. The words “put away” would necessarily convey to His Jewish hearers the idea of an entire dissolution of the marriage union, leaving both parties free to contract a fresh marriage; and if it were not so, then the case in which He specially permits that dissolution would stand on the same level as the others. The injured husband would still be bound to the wife who had broken the vow which was of the essence of the marriage-contract. But if he was free to marry again, then the guilt of adultery could not possibly attach to her subsequent marriage with another. The context, therefore, requires us to restrict that guilt to the case of a wife divorced for other reasons, such as Jewish casuistry looked on as adequate. This, then, seems the true law of divorce for the Church of Christ as such to recognise. The question as to how far national legislation may permit divorce for other causes, such as cruelty or desertion, seems to stand on a different footing, and must be discussed on different grounds. In proportion as the “hardness of heart” which made the wider license the least of two evils prevails now, it may be not only expedient, but right and necessary, though it implies a standard of morals lower than the law of Christ, to meet it, as it was met of old, by a like reluctant permission.

5:27-32 Victory over the desires of the heart, must be attended with painful exertions. But it must be done. Every thing is bestowed to save us from our sins, not in them. All our senses and powers must be kept from those things which lead to transgression. Those who lead others into temptation to sin, by dress or in other ways, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. If painful operations are submitted to, that our lives may be saved, what ought our minds to shrink from, when the salvation of our souls is concerned? There is tender mercy under all the Divine requirements, and the grace and consolations of the Spirit will enable us to attend to them.It hath been said ... - That is, by Moses, Deuteronomy 24:1-2. The husband was directed, if he put his wife away, to give her a bill of divorce, that is a certificate of the fact she had been his wife, and that he had dissolved the marriage. There was considerable difference of opinion among the Jews for what causes the husband was permitted to do this. One of their famous schools maintained that it might be done for any cause, however trivial. The other maintained that adultery only could justify it. The truth was, however, that the husband exercised this right at pleasure; that he was judge in the case, and dismissed his wife when and for what cause he chose. And this seems to be agreeable to the law in Deuteronomy. Our Saviour in Mark 10:1-12, says that this was permitted on account of the hardness of their hearts, but that in the beginning it was not so. God made a single pair, and ordained marriage for life. But Moses found the people so much hardened; so long accustomed to the practice, and so rebellious, that, as a matter of civil appointment, he thought it best not to attempt any change. Our Saviour brought marriage back to its original intention, and declared that whosoever put away his wife henceforward, except for one offence, should be guilty of adultery. This is now the law of God. This was the original institution. This is the only law that is productive of peace and good morals, and that secures the respect due to a wife, and the good of children. Nor has any man or set of men - any legislature or any court, civil or ecclesiastical - a right to interfere, and declare that divorces may be granted for any other cause. They, therefore, whoever they may be, who are divorced for any cause except the single one of adultery, if they marry again, are, according to the Scriptures, living in adultery. No earthly laws can trample down the laws of God, or make that right which he has solemnly pronounced wrong. 32. But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery—that is, drives her into it in case she marries again.

and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced—for anything short of conjugal infidelity.

committeth adultery—for if the commandment is broken by the one party, it must be by the other also. But see on [1226]Mt 19:4-9. Whether the innocent party, after a just divorce, may lawfully marry again, is not treated of here. The Church of Rome says, No; but the Greek and Protestant Churches allow it.

Same Subject Illustrated from the Third Commandment (Mt 5:33-37).

Ver. 31,32. The law to which our Saviour refers here, or rather the indulgence and toleration, (for none was obliged to put away their wives in case of uncleanness), is that Deu 24:1, where we have it in these words: When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her; then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it her in her hand, and send her out of his house. The Pharisees had extended this toleration which God gave husbands amongst the Jews to other cases, besides that of uncleanness or adultery; so as they put away their wives upon every slight occasion, interpreting those words, that she find no favour in his eyes, separately from the following words, because he hath found some uncleanness in her, and gave a liberty for men upon any dislike of their wives to put them away, provided that they first gave them a bill of divorcement; and that in these cases it was lawful for the parties, thus separated from each other, to marry to whom either of them pleased; and this is expressed in terms in their form of those writings of divorcement, in Josephus and other writers. This indeed is a case properly relating to the judicial law; but all the judicial laws are either appendices to the moral or to the ceremonial law. This particular indulgence was an appendix to the moral law, by the seventh commandment, to which our Saviour is now speaking, and giving the true sense of it. He here opposeth the Pharisees in two points.

1. Asserting that all divorces are unlawful except in case of adultery.

2. Asserting that whosoever married her that was put away committed adultery.

It hath been a great question, not so much amongst divines as amongst lawyers, whether it be not lawful in any case to put away a wife, unless for adultery? The canonists have found out many cases in which they affirm it lawful. And the Council of Trent (from whom we may learn the sense of the popish divines) anathematize those who deny the church a power of determining other causes of divorce. But their blasphemous curse falleth upon him, who is above them, God over all blessed for ever, who in this text hath determined that point. Nor indeed did Moses give a toleration in any other cases. There may indeed be a parting between man and wife upon other accounts, either wholly or in part: in case one of them will part from the other, which the apostle determines, 1 Corinthians 7:11,15; in which case the person departing is only guilty if he or she marry again. In case of an error, through ignorance or inadvertency, upon the marriage, that it appeareth that the persons married were such as by the law of nature and of God ought not to have married, &c. But if we take divorce for the voluntary act of the husband putting away of his wife, it is unlawful in any case but that of adultery, which dissolves the marriage knot and covenant. A second question is also here determined by our Saviour, viz. that it is unlawful for her, that is justly put away, to marry to any other, or for any other to marry her wittingly. But I say unto you; that whosoever shall put away his wife,.... Christ does not infringe, or revoke the original grant, or permission of divorce; only frees it from the false interpretations, and ill use, the Pharisees made of it; and restores the ancient sense of it, in which only it was to be understood: for a divorce was allowable in no case,

saving for the cause of fornication; which must not be taken strictly for what is called fornication, but as including adultery, incest, or any unlawful copulation; and is opposed to the sense and practices of the Pharisees, who were on the side of Hillell: who admitted of divorce, upon the most foolish and frivolous pretences whatever; when Shammai and his followers insisted on it, that a man ought only to put away his wife for uncleanness; in which they agreed with Christ. For so it is written (i),

"The house of Shammai say, a man may not put away his wife, unless he finds some uncleanness in her, according to Deuteronomy 24:1 The house of Hillell say, if she should spoil his food, (that is, as Jarchi and Bartenora explain it, burns it either at the fire, or with salt, i.e. over roasts or over salts it,) who appeal also to Deuteronomy 24:1. R. Akiba says, if he finds another more beautiful than her, as it is said, Deuteronomy 24:1 "and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes."''

The commentators (k) on this passage say that the determination of the matter is, according to the school of Millell; so that, according to them, a woman might be put away for a very trivial thing: some difference is made by some of the Jewish doctors, between a first and second wife; the first wife, they say (l), might not be put away, but for adultery; but the second might be put away, if her husband hated her; or she was of ill behaviour, and impudent, and not modest, as the daughters of Israel. Now our Lord says, without any exception, that a man ought not to put away his wife, whether first or second, for any other reason than uncleanness; and that whoever does, upon any other account,

causeth her to commit adultery; that is, as much as in him lies: should she commit it, he is the cause of it, by exposing her, through a rejection of her, to the sinful embraces of others; and, indeed, should she marry another man, whilst he is alive, which her divorce allows her to do, she must be guilty of adultery; since she is his proper wife, the bond of marriage not being dissolved by such a divorce: and

whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery; because the divorced woman he marries, and takes to his bed; is legally the wife of another man; and it may be added, from Matthew 19:9 that her husband, who has put her away, upon any other account than fornication, should he marry another woman, would be guilty of the same crime.

(i) Misn. Gittin, c. 9. sect. 10. Vid. T. Hieros. Gittin, fol. 49. 4. & Sota, fol. 16. 2. & Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 195. 2.((k) Maimon. & Bartenora in Gittin, c. 9. sect. 10. (l) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 90. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Gerushin, c. 10. sect. 21, 22.

But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Matthew 5:32. Παρεκτὸς λόγου πορν.] that is, except (see on 2 Corinthians 11:28) if an act of whoredom, committed by the woman during marriage (consequently adultery, John 8:41; Amos 7:17; Hosea 3:3; Sir 26:9; Sir 14:12), is the motive (λόγος, comp. Thuc. i. 102, iii. 6, lxi. 4; and see on Acts 10:29). In spite of the point of controversy which lies at the foundation, Paulus and Gratz are of opinion—most recently especially, Döllinger, Christenthum und Kirche, p. 392 ff., 460 ff., ed. 2 (comp. Baeumlein in the Stud. und Krit. 1857, p. 336)—that by πορνεία, which does not mean adultery,[412] whoredom before marriage is meant, so that the man, instead of a virgin, receives one who is no longer so.[413] The correct view is already to be found in Tertullian, and in the whole old exegetical tradition, where, however, on the Catholic side, the permission was limited only to separation a toro et mensa. On the subject, comp. the explanation which was specially called forth on a later occasion, Matthew 19:3 ff. But in Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18 (also 1 Corinthians 7:10 f.), this exception is not expressed, not as if Jesus had at the beginning made greater concessions to the pre-Christian Jewish marriages, and only at a later time completely denied the dissolubility of marriage (Hug, de conjugii christ. vinculo indissolub. 1816, who therefore declares, in Matthew 19:9, μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ to be spurious), nor even as if that ΠΑΡΕΚΤῸς, Κ.Τ.Λ., were a later modification, and not originally spoken by Christ (Bleek, Wittichen, Weiss, Holtzmann, Schenkel, and others), but Mark and Luke regard this exception by itself, understanding it as a matter of course; and rightly so,[414] since adultery eo ipso destroys the essence of all marriage obligations; comp. Weiss in d. Zeitschr. f. christl. Wissensch. 1856, p, 261. But as the exception which Jesus here makes cannot become devoid of meaning by means of Leviticus 20:10 (in answer to Schegg, see John 8:3 ff.), so also it is not to be annulled on critical grounds, which in view of the witnesses is impossible (in answer to Keim here and on Matthew 19:9). The second half of the verse also, καὶ ὃς, κ.τ.λ., cannot be condemned with Keim on the authority of D and Codd. in Augustine.

ΠΟΙΕῖ ΑὐΤῊΝ ΜΟΙΧᾶΣΘΑΙ] “per alias nuptias, quarum potestatem dat divortium” (Bengel), although, according to that principle, she is still the wife of the first husband; therefore the man also, if he marries again, ΜΟΙΧᾶΤΑΙ (Matthew 19:9).

ΚΑΊ] not causal, but and, and on the other side.

μοιχᾶται] because he has intercourse with a person who, according to the divine law, is the wife of another. That by ἈΠΟΛΕΛΥΜΈΝΗΝ, a woman who is dismissed illegally, consequently not on account of adultery, is intended, was understood as a matter of course, according to the first half of the verse.

[412] It means in general every kind of whoredom (Dem. 403. 26, 433. 25, 612. 5). Where it specially refers to adultery (μοιχεία) this is clear from the context, as here and Matthew 19:9. Thus, for example, it means also the idolatry of the people of God, because that is adultery against Jehovah, πορνεία, as in Hosea 1:2; Ezekiel 16:15; Ezekiel 23:43.

[413] How can one seriously suppose that Jesus could have laid down so slippery an exception! indelicate, uncertain, unwise, a welcome opening to all kinds of severity and chicanery, especially considering the jealousy of the Jews. And the exception would have to hold good also in the case of marriages with widows!

[414] But by the circumstance that Jesus here expressly quotes as an exception this actual ground of separation, which was understood as a matter of course, He excludes every other (comp. especially Calovius); and it is incorrect to say that, while He grants one actual ground of separation, He still allows several others (Grotius, de Wette, Bleek, and others; comp. also Werner in d. Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 702 ff.), which is quite opposed to the point of view of moral strictness, from which He excepts only that case in which the actual dissolution of the marriage in its innermost nature is directly given.—That Christ bases His answer on the question of divorce purely upon the nature of the divine ordinance of marriage as it was already given at the creation (una caro, Matthew 9:5), not upon its object, is of decisive importance for the legislation in question, where we have also to observe that the altered form of divorce (the judicial) can make no change in the principles laid down by Jesus. Otherwise the legislation relating to marriage is driven on and on, by way of supposed consistency, to the laxity of the Prussian law and that of other lands (comp. the concessions of Bleek). Moreover, as regards malicious desertion, the declarations of Christ admit of application only so far as that desertion quoad formam, consequently according to its essential nature, is fully equivalent to adultery, which, however, must always be a question in each individual case. It cannot be shown from 1 Corinthians 9:15 that malicious desertion was regarded as a reason for dissolving Christian marriage. See on the passage.—Of that case of separation, where the man commits adultery, Christ does not speak, because the law, which does not know of any dismissal of the man on the part of the woman, presented no occasion to it. But the application of the principle in the case of adultery on the part of the woman to that of the man as a ground of divorce rightly follows in accordance with the moral spirit of Jesus; comp. Mark 10:12; Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 11:11.32. causeth her to commit adultery] By adopting a slightly different reading in the original with Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, the idea of wilful sin on the woman’s part is removed.

that is divorced] Lit. when she hath been divorced.Matthew 5:32. Λόγου, for the cause) The Hebrew דָּבָר corresponds to the Greek λόγος in the sense of a cause, why anything may be rightly done.[212]—ποιεῖ αὐτὴν μοιχᾶσθαι, makes her to commit adultery) sc. by other nuptials into which the divorce permits her to enter.—ἀπολελυμένην, one that has been divorced).

[212] These words, παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας, apply also to the following clause καὶ ὁ͂ς εἄν ἀπολελ. γαμ, and are to be supplied in it.—Vers. Germ.Verse 32. - (For full notes, cf. Matthew 19:9.) Parallel passages: Mark 10:12; Luke 16:18; apparently the context of Mark represents Matthew 19:1-8, and the context of Luke rather represents Matthew 5:18. Notice here:

(1) Matthew alone, in both places, gives the exception of fornication.

(2) St. Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11 to this saying of our Lord's.

(3) The laxity in this matter of the Hillel school of the Pharisees is well known.

Their theory, indeed, sounds good, viz. that there should be perfect unity in the marriage state; but starting from this premiss they affirmed that if in any single respect the unity was not attained, divorce might follow. For examples, see Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.'). Our Lord upholds the school of Shammai. It is said that shameful laxity in divorce still exists among Oriental Jews. Fornication. The reference is to sin after marriage. Contrast Deuteronomy 22:20, 21, where the husband's action is not thought of as divorce. The more general word (πορνεία) is used, because it lays more stress on the physical character of the sin than μοιχεία would have laid. Causeth her to commit adultery; Revised Version, maketh her an adulteress, since the right reading, μοιχευθῆναι, connotes being sinned against rather than sinning (Received Text, μοιχᾶσθαι). (For the thought, cf. Romans 7:3.) And whosoever shall marry, etc. Bracketed by Westcott and Hort, as omitted by certain 'Western' authorities (especially D and Old Latin manuscripts). (On the importance of the 'Western' group in cases of omission, vide Westcott and Hort, 2. §§ 240-242; cf. also Matthew 9:34, note.) The clause closely resembles Luke 16:18b. Her that is divorced; i.e. under these wrong conditions, as Revised Version, her when put away. even though αὐτήν is not expressed. This interpretation, notwithstanding Weiss's stigma of it as "ganz willkurlich," is surely only a plain deduction from the preceding clause. The fact that no such limitation is to be found in Luke 16:18 must not prejudice our judgment here.
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